Bullying in the workplace rarely affects just one person, there is normally some sort of collateral damage as well. Most people who are bullied in the workplace will find that the effects of the bullying will also put a strain on their family relationships or their home life. It is especially important to stamp out bullying in the workplace, because it can have such wide-reaching effects.
It is easy for people who are suffering bullying in the workplace to start to worry about what the ultimate outcome will be. They may know that if they lose their job then they will struggle to support their family and could lose the family home. This may change their attitude towards spending time within the household and this can cause friction if other members of the household are unaware of the problem. Lack of open communication within a relationship can cause feelings of mistrust and suspicion.
Effects on the person being bullied. Workplace bullying can lead to the victim becoming quiet and withdrawn when they are around their family. It can be very difficult to talk about bullying in the workplace, because many people only associate bullying with children and young adults. They may be worried that if they reveal what is happening to them, then their partner will see them as weak. This concern is particularly prevalent amongst men who are being bullied in the workplace, who feel as though revealing bullying could emasculate them in their partner’s eyes.
It is true that partners can react very differently when the bullying is revealed. Although some partners are supportive and will try to work through the problem, other people may find that their partner resorts to victim blaming. They may even end up belittling their partner for failing to sort it out for themselves. It can be difficult for a relationship to survive if one partner fails to support the other one during a period of bullying. Failing to receive the necessary support from a partner can also exacerbate the psychological damage that is caused by the bullying.
Behavioural effects. Unfortunately, bullying in the workplace may increase the likelihood that the victim will display abusive or aggressive behaviour when they are at home. Workplace bullying can cause the victim to hold in a lot of pent up emotion and rage, which they may release in sudden outbursts. Small issues may start to seriously irritate that person and their emotions may change very quickly. Even if these outbursts are not physically violent, they can be damaging for those who are on the receiving end. Victims of bullying may continue the cycle by displaying bullying behaviour towards their own partner or children. This does not occur in all cases of workplace bullying.
Mental consequences. In some of the worst case scenarios, workplace bullying can lead to self-harming or even suicide. The suicide of a loved one can have a huge effect on the partner and children of the victim. The effects of a suicide will also be felt by parents, siblings and close friends of that person. People who were close to a person who committed suicide often report that they feel guilty that they failed to spot the signs of depression or offer “more” support to that person before they took their own life. Research also suggests that children with a suicidal parent are more likely to skip school, because they want to stay at home in an effort to prevent something from happening. This is a huge burden of responsibility for children or young adults to feel like they need to bear. Those who witness a suicide may even develop Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
What can you do? If you are being bullied in the workplace and you are worried about how it might affect your home and family life, you should seek support. If you feel comfortable in doing so, you may want to address the issue directly with the person who is bullying you. It is possible that they may not realise the effects that their actions are having on you. Alternatively, seek the support of a friendly line manager or member of the HR team.
If you are unable to get support from anyone within your organisation, you should speak to someone in your trade union, at the Citizens Advice Bureau, ACAS or the Equality and Human Rights Commission. Make sure that you keep a diary of any incidents which happen in the workplace, so that you have a record of everything that occurs. It is important that you stick to the facts within these records, rather than speculating about means and motive. However, you can include information about how the incident made you feel. In some situations, ACAS or your trade union may arrange a mediation session between yourself any people who are engaged in bullying in the workplace. These sessions are normally held in a safe space to allow both parties to discuss the problem constructively.